This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Caste regression and the evolution of war

Having very briefly described the traditional ascesis of the warrior vocation, it will be good to show how this has been altered throughout history and why we have so emphatically stated that the situation today is not conducive to the warrior ascesis, and why it is, in fact, very dangerous to misinterpret the situation as we find it today.

To help clarify this, we will refer to what is called the regression of castes, which is a way of describing the collapse of traditional civilization and the emerge of the modern world. Although we’ve described this elsewhere, we will re-present it here from the point of view of the warrior vocation specifically.

In short, the regression of the castes is a process whereby the traditional order of civilization, consisting of four primary castes organized hierarchically according to nature and function, collapses from the top down.

The four principal castes are: 1) the priests, 2) the nobility (the warrior is situated here), 3) the merchants/tradesman, and 4) the general laborers or ‘peasants’.

In terms of function, the corresponding hierarchical breakdown is: 1) knowledge, 2) temporal power and war, 3) commerce or trade or production, 4) labor.

Again, we do not wish to repeat here the depth of analysis that is provided in other sections, but suffice it to say that this organization is in keeping with logic and the nature of the human condition, such that it permits society to achieve a kind of unity, since unity is only possible when differences of vocation are acknowledged.

In the latter part of the Dark Age, when the process of decay and inversion takes its toll, the structure begins to deteriorate through stages of devolution. First, the authority of the priestly caste is set aside, and the aristocracy absorbs its authority and usually its property, just as the European princes absorbed the land and authority of the Catholic Church after the Reformation. The aristocracy (which, again, would traditionally have also been the warrior caste) then operates without regard to the dictates of religion or is no longer answerable to any religious authority. Since this is not a stable state, social entropy increases and eventually the ‘Third Estate’, in other words the merchants or middle class or ‘bourgeoisie’, realizes that it could disenfranchise the nobility, just as the nobility disenfranchised the Church, and so it does. This took place in the West under the guise of liberal Enlightenment philosophy, and entailed the establishment of democracy via the French and American revolutionary wars. Finally, since this third stage is in fact the most unstable, the fourth stage of regression comes quickly, and here the lowest elements, representing labor, aka: the proletariat, seek to overthrow the bourgeoisie, hence the barbarism of Marxist movements and Russian Bolshevism.

Now, having provided that brief outline, we wish to point out that at each stage of degeneration, war itself takes on new meaning and it is as if a whole new vision of anthropology is adopted. This has incredible import for the warrior vocation, which, in the ‘normal’ traditional structure, was primarily the responsibility of the aristocracy.

That war could ever be the responsibility of the wealthiest class is an idea that comes as a shock to us today, and this shows the distance between ourselves and the traditional norm. For us anyone and everyone is called to war, just as everyone is called to statecraft via modern elections.

When a hierarchy collapses, the functions of the higher do not simply disappear since they still must be performed. Responsibilities drop to the next level and are absorbed into the adjacent caste, even if the original caste is still allowed to exist in some manner. Thus, after the reformation, the priests were allowed to remain, but at the same time they had no real social function because, in the new religious mentality, which was Protestantism, all men were construed as theologians with interpretive power and religious prerogatives, and obedience due to any member of a religious hierarchy was felt as an offense. The same became true after the aristocracy was overthrown: no man after that point feels he is rightly subjected to another’s rule.

The important distinction, here, is that all that was said concerning the possibilities of the warrior vocation, its spiritual power, and the instructions pertaining to a warrior ascesis, originated in a context where the warrior vocation belonged to a minority social element. It was given to the nobility, a professional class of soldiers. This made sense, since war itself was the responsibility of that minority, and because only that minority was in possession of great wealth and education in statecraft and was able to dedicate itself to the business of ruling and of war in a way that is no longer conceivable for us. It is almost unthinkable, today, to suggest that the fighting of wars is something that ought to fall to our leaders and their private entourages. And yet that was the historical norm.

To return to our point, we can see that alongside the stages of social decay, we are presented with varieties of meaning attached to war, corresponding to the new human type responsible for fighting.

If war is waged under the flag of Christendom, it takes on a certain meaning for those who fight in it. It has a spiritual motive. If war, in the second stage, is waged under the flag of temporal power—for example the banner of a prince, then it goes without saying that its motive becomes worldly, and we will already have difficulty speaking of a true ascesis. Nonetheless, these first two situations were always more or less present and so the ascesis was still accessible through an emphasis on fides with respect to one’s superior.

The third stage—the ascendance of the bourgeoisie—is heralded by the establishment of democracies and the spread of industrial capitalist economies. Here we come to the most profound transformation in the meaning of war. Here we come to the point where the warrior vocation is robbed of most of its spiritual potential and the spiritual dangers involved in the vocation, which were always present, are amplified to an unimaginable degree due to the absence of any neutralizing spiritual framework.

Because in these societies mankind is viewed as homogenous, there is no reason to speak of a warrior vocation, or any kind of vocation, since any man could just as well be any other man. Here we find the nobility and any other traditional designation (knight, samurai, etc.) is replaced with the citizen and the citizen-soldier, and this soldier fights at the behest of politicians who themselves remain hundreds of miles from battle. As for motives, he fights for reasons that are mostly unknown to him and in the end, with few exceptions, are of an economic nature.

The new citizen-solider is, from the point of view of his rulers, nothing but a unit of human material, a tangible resource to be spent on the battlefield: he is cannon fodder. The nation with the largest reserve of this material resource, or who proves most willing to spend it without scruple, is the nation who wins. War becomes a question of the combined use of technological advance and human quantities.

In the last phase of degeneration, when the proletariat overthrows the bourgeoisie, the warrior vocation suffers little since there is little left of it to be destroyed. The main difference is seen in the attitude of the individual, the soldier, toward himself, toward the value he places on his own life and the loftiness of his vocation, and also in the attitude of the rulers toward the people they use to achieve victory. If we have anything positive to say about bourgeoisie war, it is that its ideals, as naïve as they are, tend to be more noble, and the individual is perceived as having some dignity beyond his use as a bullet sponge.

All of these stages involve rhetoric about the hero, about the nobility of war, but it will be obvious now that the significance behind the words is entirely different, as if proceeding from different worlds of meaning. This is why we stress so much the fact that it is dangerous to try and transplant whatever might have been said to the medieval crusader into whatever ‘military intervention’ or ‘liberation’ might be underway here in the 21st century. Not all worlds present the same vocational possibilities, and not all wars present the same spiritual opportunities.

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